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serving jesus christ the king

Abuse - A future for Faith?

The publication of the Murphy Report on the awful abuse perpetrated and subsequently covered up was the third in a line of long reports that have rocked our nation. What are we to make of these?

First of all, we have to say that there is no place for such abuse, and no place for covering it up in any part of society. We’ll look at help for the hurting next week, but prior to that we need to look at the implications for faith. One reaction would be to have nothing more to do with religion in general and Christianity in particular. Yet that reaction, understandable though it is, would be hasty.

As a contributor to RTE’s
Frontline programme commented perceptively, “Ireland has got so caught up in religion that it has forgotten its Christianity”. That says a lot in a few words.

Part of the problem perhaps has been the confusion between what is called Christianity and genuine Christianity. Much of what passes as Christianity is merely religion in a Christian dress. Religion is based on us doing our best to please God through a variety of rituals. The essence of genuine Christianity that we are saved, not because of what we do, but solely because of what Christ has done for us. Belief in this is profoundly humbling.

Belief in the other leads to all sorts of problems: it creates an aura of fear, where the secrets of salvation are held by an elite few, where they become powerful, and blessing is at their say so. That amount of power is then open to abuse. It has been thus since the temples of ancient Greece, Rome, and the Incas.

The Bible is unequivocally condemning in its critique of such religiosity. Just as it is condemning of those who use their religion to hurt and abuse others. Jesus warns those who cause little ones to stumble with regard to God that it would be better for them to be taken out and drowned. He castigates those who use their power to whitewash over all manner of evil within:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence… You are like whitewashed tombs… How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (Matthew 23).

Part of the solution, therefore lies not in the abandonment of religion, but in the embrace of genuine Christianity. When Martin Luther King Jr. confronted the racism endemic in the church-dominated white Southern states, he did not call it to abandon its Christian principles. Instead he called them to be
more Christian, rather than less Christian, to be more true to what the Bible says.

We are chronically unaware of what the Bible really teaches, and so, in part, what we need to do is to return to real biblical Christianity. There we will find safeguards; but also Jesus Christ, who brings ultimate hope, justice and cleansing.